Get the Dog’s Name, Make it Sing and Don’t Fuck Up

by | Mar 12, 2010

Right now I am sitting in a darkened hotel room with the soft sound of mozart drifting across the room.

I’m at the Hotel Hershey sprawled out on possibly the most comfortable quadruple pillow top bed I have ever encountered in my life and I can’t stop thinking about the line I just heard this morning:

“Get the dog’s name, make it sing and don’t fuck up.”

This is why I enjoy conferences. These kind of quotes are what I live for.

Today’s speaker at the annual CUPRAP conference was Tom French, a remarkable character and one of the most intriguing story tellers I have heard in a long time. He pulls you in, he grips your interest, he knows the right moment to stop to keep you begging for me.

Tom French, Pullitzer Prize winning author, explained how one of his editor’s said to him one day before he went out to report a story, “Get the dog’s name, make it sing and don’t fuck up.” Such truth in those words: go in, get the basics, concoct something genuis and don’t mess it up.

Another great peice of advise French shared was to create that cliffhanger. Make your reader want more.

As I thought about that I couldn’t help but remember a younger version of myself. Suki 1.0 I’ll call her (you may recoognize her in the picture above).

Suki 1.0 used to sit and watch TV. A television junkie from a young age (some things never change). And this Suki 1.0 would watch adult TV shows with Mum and Dad. Shows like Magnum P.I, the A-Team, Law and Order, The Jeffersons and Life Goes On. (Aw the 80’s and 90’s such nostalgia). Anyway as I would watch these shows and the story would begin to unfold I would find myself getting captivated, wanting to know more. And then came the inevitable CLIFFHANGER.

Tom Selleck, with his glossy hair, flashy sunglasses, bushy mustache and incredibly corny hawaiian t-shirt would speed around the corner in his red convertible only to be faced with the “bad guys” coming just as fast straight towards him. The both speed faster, pressing on the accelerator, your heart is beating, your palms are sweating, you are literally on the edge of your seat and….


I couldn’t take it! I was bouncing from the chair, throwing my hands in the air and yelling.

“What’s going to happen?”

“I don’t know,” my father would always say, “You’re going to have to wait.”

“But I don’t want to. What’s going to happen next?”

“I can’t tell you.”

Ask him now. He will tell you the same thing. I would ask that question over and over. I couldn’t handle the cliff hanger.

But thinking back on it now. Boy were those guys some good story tellers.

And using cliffhangers, and dog’s names, and minute details and unfolding are all great ways to tell a great story.

Just remember…

And this is very important…

You must always…



We’ll be right back, after these commercials.


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